Hapoel Tel-Aviv will have to overcome Parma AC on Italian soil if their fairytale progress in the UEFA Cup is to be sustained. In the fourth round first-leg tie they were held 0-0 by the Italian side in a disappointing game that saw the Israeli team create good chances at the start and at the finish but little in between.
Late chance goes wide
Within three minutes of the start a delicate chip from the adventurous Ygal Antebi was nicely set up for a team-mate to dispatch and send the home crowd into raptures but the header was placed just wide of the post.
Equally as frustrating to Tel-Aviv's hopes was the seventh-minute move which provided Serghey Clescenko with a clear sight of goal after Ilan Bachar had cut the ball back cleverly. It was a poor miss because Clescenko had time to pick his spot but the incident set the tone for the home team who have travelled further in this competition than any other Israeli team before them.
Italians slow to hit form
Now Tel-Aviv will have to climb another mountain because they will be expecting Parma to show improved form in the return game. The Italians were slow to get into their stride and presented few threats to Shavit Elimelech's goal. Nevertheless, they enjoyed a strong spell just before half-time when a powerful header from Emiliano Bonazzoli following a right-wing corner was tipped over the top by the Tel-Aviv goalkeeper. Minutes before the tall Parma forward had been played into space down the right only to see his low shot parried at the near post by Elimelech.
Elimelech nearly caught out
It was a night when individual mistakes proliferated. In injury time Elimelech's rush of blood might have proved costly. He came a long way out of his goal and when Marco di Vaio got the better of him he was forced to hold back the Parma substitute and incur a booking. Further punishment could have followed from the free-kick but it came to nothing and that was a regular occurrence as both sides appeared to lack self-belief.
Osterc out of luck
Tel-Aviv left Milan Osterc, who had scored six goals on the way to the fourth round, on the bench and he was brought on in the second half to loud cheers from the crowd. The Slovenian striker suggested on one or two occasions that he could work his magic again but it was not to be.
Parma better away
In every previous round Parma's result in the away leg has proved to be superior to their effort at home and that will be a consolation for Tel-Aviv as they prepare for next week's return. Nevertheless this is a superior Parma side under new coach Pietro Carmignani to the one that flirted with the Serie A relegation zone under Daniel Passarella.
Despite only drawing, Tel-Aviv coach Dror Kashtan remained optimistic about his side's prospects of progressing to the quarter-finals. "An away goal could do a lot for us and we have a week to prepare," he said. "We will field the strongest side available in the return leg." Kashtan was full of praise for Parma and added: "We just played against a side from the top level in Europe and it was clear for everyone to see how technically, tactically and physically strong they are."
Carmigiani dismisses claims
Parma coach Carmigiani dismissed claims that his team had been afraid to travel to Israel because of the political situation. He said: "It was a very good game and I knew from watching the videos and from what I had heard from our scouts that Tel-Aviv are a very difficult side to beat as they are both strong and fast. We tried not to give them too much space because we knew what they could do. Both teams have still a 50 per cent chance to qualify."